About the Diabetes Research Group

Here at the Diabetes research group we play a key role in research both locally and globally through senior positions in the British Diabetic Association / Diabetes UK, and the EASD. Due to this we have established rich collaborations with numerous Centres of Excellence worldwide.

Our activities are always expanding and we have devoted significant effort to technology transfer activities managed by Innovation Ulster/Diabetica Ltd.

Our research activities are directed into four main areas, as we aim to increase knowledge at the forefront of diabetes research and subsequently develop new approaches for diabetes therapy. These activities have contributed to outstanding ratings in the 1996, 2001, 2008 and 2014 HEFCE RAE and REF exercises encompassing a spectrum of state of the art technologies coupled with strong clinical research collaborations.

The group itself was formed in 1989 following the appointment of Professor Peter Flatt to a Chair of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. We have significantly expanded in numbers since then and we now have an array of researchers that have strengthened the research profile and capitalised on the Group's policy of research endeavor and selectivity. Members of the research group can be seen below.

Since 1989 the Group has built an extensive range of external networks being the founder of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Islet Study Group and playing a pivotal role in the establishment of the EU-funded Islet Research European and Latin-American Networks

Our Strategy

  • To undertake and publish research of national and international status aimed at increasing knowledge of the pancreatic islets, endocrine control of nutrient homeostasis and both the pathophysiology and treatment of diabetes mellitus.
  • To exploit intellectual property and actively pursue technology transfer with the aim of helping to alleviate the world-wide burden of diabetes and contributing to the prosperity and knowledge-based economy in Northern Ireland.
  • To provide a supportive and high quality training environment for research students and postdoctoral fellows to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, new skills, personal fulfillment and career progression.
  • To participate in productive national and international networks with Centres of Excellence for diabetes research and to actively contribute to the global diabetes community, through public engagement, conferences and involvement with organizations promoting research, understanding and well being of individuals with diabetes.

Opportunities for Recruitment

  • Opportunities exist for recruitment of a number of highly motivated research students and Fellows.
  • Overseas personnel from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Gambia, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan, in addition to those from the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
  • Projects offered are in key areas of ongoing research, and provide a unique experience for innovative diabetes and biomedical training.
  • A friendly team environment exists which has previously secured 100% PhD completion within 2-4 years registration.
  • State-of-the-art equipment and expertise is available in a number of modern areas of biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and peptide chemistry.
  • Work is conducted in an internationally recognised research environment which places considerable emphasis on peer-reviewed publication, training and career progression.

Our members

Visiting Professors

Professor John Michael Conlon

Michael Conlon

Background 

BSc in Chemistry from University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1969) and DPhil from University if Sussex (1973). After post-doctoral fellowships at University College, Dublin, Queen’s University, Belfast, Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, USA and University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Professor Conlon became Leiter (Director) of the Clinical Research Group for Gastrointestinal Endocrinology at the Max Planck Society at the University of Gottingen, Germany (1983-88) and Professor of Biochemistry at Creighton University Medical School, Omaha, USA (1989-2002). From 2002-2014, he was Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine and Health Sciences of UAE University and in 2013 was appointed Visiting Professor at Ulster University. He is author of over 500 peer-reviewed publications (h-index 62) and is currently Associate Editor of Peptides.

Research Interests

Endocrinology of the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas with emphasis on peptide hormones from non-mammalian vertebrates
Comparative neuroendocrinology with emphasis on the molecular evolution of neuroendocrine peptides
Isolation and characterization of peptides with antimicrobial, anticancer, immunomodulatory and insulin-releasing properties from frog skin and snake venom.

Teaching Interests

Biochemistry, Peptide Chemistry, Endocrinology

Contact

m.conlon@ulster.ac.uk

Research Profiles

Profile on Research Gate
Profile on Google Scholar

PhD Researchers

Prawej Ansari

Prawej Ansari received a B.Sc. (Hons) in Pharmacy with distinction from the International Islamic University Chittagong, Bangladesh in 2013. He was awarded a Masters of Pharmacy degree Magna Cum Laude from the North South University, Bangladesh in 2015. He is a registered Pharmacist since 2014 and worked as a Teaching and Research Assistant during his Master’s degree. He has published more than 25 journal articles and has served in the role of reviewer and editorial board member. Ansari joined the Diabetes Research Group in September 2016 as a PhD researcher. His research focuses on the isolation and characterization of phytochemicals with insulin releasing and glucose lowering effects for treatment of type-2 diabetes.

Supervisors : Dr Yasser Abdel-Wahab and Professor Peter Flatt

Sarah Craig

Sarah, from Ballymoney in County Antrim, graduated in 2017 from Ulster University. She gained a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science with a Diploma in Professional Practice with first class honours. During her university course, she completed a one-year placement in Randox Laboratories where she developed a keen interest in research and development. Sarah joined the Diabetes Research group as a PhD researcher in September 2017 to work on xenin-based peptides as potential therapeutics for type 2 diabetes.

Supervisors: Victor Gault and Nigel Irwin

Galyna Graham

Galyna graduated from Ulster University gaining a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science with Diploma in Professional Practice. During her University course she completed a 1 year placement in the Biochemistry Laboratory at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Being interested in the treatment of diabetes and the development of new antidiabetic drugs, Galyna joined the Diabetes Research Group in September 2015. Her PhD research concentrates on evolutionary aspects of glucagon, GLP-1 and GIP and their specific receptors. This research may contribute to better understanding of the biological function of these peptides and their potential for antidiabetic drug design.

Supervisors : Peter Flatt, Mike Conlon and Dr Abdel-Wahab

Dawood Kahn

Dawood has been member of Diabetes Research Group as a PhD researcher since September 2013. He graduated from Amity University, India where he gained a BSc (Hons) degree in biotechnology with first division. This involved internships for manufacture of oral polio vaccine, in-silico drug designing for male pattern baldness and development of biological software for visually impaired students. He went on to complete MSc in Biotechnology with distinction at Ulster University. His MSc project focused on anti-diabetic properties of peptides secreted from frog skin. His PhD research evaluates the expression and role of non-classical islet peptides in beta cell function and survival.

Supervisors : Peter Flatt and Neville McClenaghan

Natalie Klempel

Natalie grew up in the United States and graduated with a bachelors in Kinesiology from Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas.  This generated a burning interest in anatomy and pathology, leading to completion of MSc in Human Anatomy (with merit)  from the University of Dundee. In September 2016, Natalie joined the Diabetes Research Group for PhD studies.  Her research focuses on the mechanism of action of an alpha cell toxin and the essential role of glucagon in diabetes.

Supervisors : Professor Peter Flatt, Professor Neville McClenaghan and Dr. Charlotte Moffett

Andrew McCloskey

Andrew joined the Diabetes Research Group in September 2015. Previously, he studied for four years in the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, where he gained a BSc (Hons) in Bioanalytical Science. During his undergraduate study, he developed an active interest in pharmaceutical research and development. Subsequently, he joined the Ulster University to undertake a PhD. His research, funded by Diabetes UK, focuses on the role of novel G-protein coupled receptors with respect to islet cell function and glucose homeostasis.

Supervisors : Aine McKillop and Peter Flatt

Michael Miskelly

Michael’s previous qualifications include a BSc (Hons) in Genetics and an MSc in Biomolecular Structure and Function both of which were obtained from Queen’s University of Belfast. Michael carried out research on phylogenetics as an undergraduate and during his Master’s degree his research focused on ribosome biogenesis in breast cancer. He joined the Diabetes Research Group in June 2014 and is currently working towards a PhD investigating the role of G-protein coupled receptors in incretin hormone secretion.

Supervisors : Aine McKillop and Peter Flatt

Shruti Mohan

Shruti joined the Diabetes Research Group in September 2015. She graduated from SASTRA University, Thanjavur, India with BTech in Bioengineering and MTech in Medical Nanotechnology. She has explored various fields of research in India, USA and Japan. Her passion towards the biomedical sciences grew when she started reading about different signalling pathways and various related disorders. She wanted to focus on diabetes as a disorder needing new treatment options as well as better knowledge on the intricacies of the disease itself. She aims to combine her engineering skills to design and study therapeutic peptides as part of her PhD in the Diabetes Research Group. She is currently working with Peter Flatt and Aine McKillop on a novel GPR agonist which has shown impressive potential for improving glucose control in diabetes.

Supervisors : Peter Flatt and Aine McKillop

Vishal Musale

Vishal joined the Diabetes Research Group in September 2015 as PhD researcher under supervision of Yasser Abdel-Wahab and Peter Flatt. His research work focuses on elucidating long term metabolic effects of frog skin peptides in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. He developed a strong inclination towards novel therapeutic strategies during MSc in Biotechnology at Ulster where he worked in this area. Previously, Vishal completed a BSc (Hons) degree in microbiology from Shivaji University in India.

Supervisors : Yasser Abdel-Wahab and Peter Flatt

Rachele Perry

Rachele comes from Dromara, a small village in County Down. She began her training as a hairdresser and worked in a number of elite salons in Northern Ireland. After eight years she decided to take a sabbatical, traveling through Australasia, the United States and Canada. Whilst away she decided on a career change. Upon completion of an access course, she commenced studies at Ulster University for BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences degree with a Diploma in Professional Practice. This included completion of Health and Care Professions Council’s registration portfolio to practice as a biomedical scientist and an investigative project supervised by Mike Conlon on the insulinotropic effects and therapeutic potential of snake venom derived from the black mamba. Rachele joined Diabetes Research Group as PhD researcher in September 2015 to work on gut derived incretin hormones as diabetes therapeutics.

Supervisors : Victor Gault and Peter Flatt

Ryan Lafferty

Ryan graduated with a Master’s Degree in pharmacy in 2014, which he obtained while studying at Queen’s University Belfast. He subsequently began his pre-registration year as a pharmacist, working in a community pharmacy in West Belfast. Upon qualification, he began working as a locum-pharmacist in the greater Belfast area. His interest in diabetes was spiked after being recruited as a consultant pharmacist for a small start-up company, who developed a novel blood-glucose monitor. This experience imparted a desire to further study diabetes, resulting in the undertaking of a PhD within the Diabetes Research Group at Ulster, which he started in September 2016. He is currently investigating the therapeutic potential of a range of novel PYY peptides, with the aim of developing a hybrid peptide with several gut-hormones.

Supervisors: Prof. Peter Flatt and Dr. Nigel Irwin

Dipak Sarnobat

Dipak Sarnobat obtained BSc and MSc degrees with upper first class honours from Shivaji University, India. Later in 2014, he completed a Master’s degree in biotechnology at Ulster University. He also worked for a period in the insulin manufacturing industry. During the MSc project at Ulster, Dipak worked on the insulinotropic properties of peptides which fired his interest in diabetes research.  Dipak is currently working on a project on treatment of type 2 diabetes using genetically engineered mice to generate insulin producing cells from non-beta cell lineages.

Supervisors : Professor Neville McClenaghan, Professor Peter Flatt and Dr Charlotte Moffett

Neil Tanday

Neil grew up in Kent and moved to London to undertake an MSc in integrated pharmacology and physiology at King’s College London. In his final year, he developed a keen interest in diabetes having spent six months working on a project to improve islet transplantation therapy. In September 2015 he joined the Group Research Group at Ulster University to carry out a PhD under the supervision of Peter Flatt. His research will focus on investigating how the plasticity of the endocrine pancreas can be used to treat diabetes.

Supervisor : Peter Flatt

Sagar Vyavahare

Sagar graduated with a BSc (Hons) degree in Animal and Veterinary Sciences from India with MSc in Animal Biotechnology. He decided to study abroad and obtained MSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from University of Hertfordshire. During this, he developed a keen interest in diabetes and decided to undertake research degree in this area. Sagar is currently pursuing PhD in Diabetes Research Group on the use of incretin peptides for treatment of fragility fractures in diabetes.

Supervisors : Nigel Irwin and Peter Flatt